The Jay Leno Show Official Site

The Time:
Weeknights, 10:00 PM, NBC

The Show:

After 17 years as the host of the top-rated The Tonight Show,
Jay Leno gave up the desk to Conan O’Brien this spring via NBC
mandate.  In a risky cost-cutting move and in order to keep Leno from
going to a competing network, NBC has migrated him to primetime. By
doing so, Leno has become the first host in TV history to have a
five-night-a-week primetime entertainment and talk show.  Leno, the NBC
brass and especially the Universal bean counters seem ecstatic.  Everyone else, ehhhh….

The Stars:

- Jay Leno
- Kevin Eubanks and The Primetime Band
- Celebrities and music acts

The Episode: “Premiere

- Jerry Seinfeld
- Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna perform
- Headlines segment

The Lowdown:

Okay, we all know the scuttlebutt: everyone with an age bracket above and an IQ below 70 are the only ones who liked Leno as the host of The Tonight Show.  Accusations that he stole material from everyone and everything, most notably Howard Stern and old rival, David Letterman, abounded for years.  Overly-populist monolgues that pandered to the above-mentioned demographics, Headlines and Jaywalking also were known as Leno staples.  Nevertheless, starting around 1995, Leno was the king of late night – ratings-wise at least.  But now the king is dead, long live the king. 

So now Leno’s new show has much of what we’re used to, but also some new elements sprinkled in.  As much as things changed, just as much stayed the same.  What follows is an idea of how things broke down:

Opening Credits: Very SNL-ish. 

New Set: Fairly snazzy, truth to tell.  Sort of shopping center lobby meets night club.  Don’t know how, whether it’s the architecture or the camera angles, but that studio looks damn near twice as big as before.  Maybe it’s all the primetime sizzle.

Opening Monologue: Leno’s not really going to change his stand-up style after nearly two decades on NBC and over 30 years in comedy.  Some obvious mentions include Barack Obama, Kanye and Taylor Swift having a “root beer” summit (on account of Swift only being 19).  He throws in a Cialis bathtub reference when depicting Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi sitting behind Obama during his recent address to Congress.  An admittedly good line about Leno having made $5 billion from the recent Cash for Clunkers deal.  Also a bit with Joey Greco of Cheaters and Kevin Eubanks with a Jay clone. 

Notable absence is (formerly Stuttering) John Melendez, who won’t be the studio announcer anymore, rather working as a member of the writing staff.  According to Wikipedia, when asked about Melendez’s new role, Leno stated that Melendez would
appear in comedy segments during the show and that the new show would
not have a studio announcer. He described his interplay with Melendez
Tonight as “awkward,” saying “I’d throw to [Kevin Eubanks], and I’d throw to John, and I realized that my guy is [Eubanks].”  Ooof.

Dan Finnerty Everything is Better With Music Segment: Dan Finnerty was the wedding singer from The Hangover and he did a bit where he offered entertainment to regular folk at a car wash.  It initially featured a somewhat humorous male burlesque segment using hoses, but the bit went on way too long.

Jerry Seinfeld Interview: Seinfeld comes out in a tux, and he’s usually a pretty good interview.  No couch now, as this is a one-on-one interview segment in La-Z-Boys.  Seinfeld rags on Jay for “leaving” and not really going anywhere.  They schlep out Oprah in a quickie video interview.  OK segment. 

Obama “Interview”: This is a Leno staple where he inserts himself into interviews done by other outlets with famous people.  In this case, it’s the Baller-In-Chief.  These are usually excruciating segments and this was no different.

Kanye West Interview: This was the moment of the night, and I’m sure that once Leno realized Kanye was going to keep his commitment to perform, and also asked to do a quickie interview to address the Taylor Swift / VMAs fallout, he got down on his knees and sacrificed a rubber chicken to the comedy gods.  Anyway, this lasted but a couple of minutes and Kanye is contrite and admits he was wrong and says he wants to apologize to Swift in person.  But he also rambles and almost breaks down when Leno brings his late mother, Donda West, into the interview.  Now whether any or all of this is put on by Kanye is left up to you, the viewer.  Kanye brings up that he hasn’t dealt with his hurt over his mother’s death and turned that into “someone else’s hurt.”  At the height of the awkwardness and Kanye’s loss for words, Leno segues it into the musical number.  Heh.  Leno softballs him and this was an awkward segment at best. 

Jay-Z / Rihanna / Kanye Musical Number: They sing Run This Town off of Jay-Z’s new album.  Pretty sedate performance but solid.  Was Rihanna wearing that lace mask to cover some black eyes?  Don’t know, but she’ looked good in that leather number she had on.

Headlines: They’ve moved this Leno staple to the end of the show to lead into the news.  Segment is exactly the same as always.  You can either tolerate it or not.  No big surprises here.

The Jay Leno Show is essentially The Tonight Show in a new Bat-package and new Bat-time.  Leno’s formula has been adjusted somewhat, but he’s not about to stray too far from the routine that kept him ahead of Letterman in the Nielsens for most of his run.  If you watched his old show, you’ll be right at home with his new one, and if not, well let’s just say there’s a lot less competition for your regular 10 PM viewing.

6.2 out of 10